This month I started looking at GPS and Arduino using Adafruit’s Flora and Flora GPS. My intention was to get something going where Arduino and Processing could talk to each other and also to figure out how to work with the GPS data. I was able to create a basic data-logger from Adafruit’s dog harness logging tutorial. I even got an antenna from Adafruit with an adapter for the Flora so I could use it in my car.
I was still figuring out how to parse the NMEA data that the GPS collects, and I was then able to upload some of the data to Google maps as the tutorial suggested, however, without buying the ‘Pro’ version of Google maps I could only upload 100 place markers. The amount of data is quite complicated when it initially dumps off of the GPS – and then parsing it into readable information is another step.
I didn’t play with the Google mapping too much as I was more interested in how to get the Arduino program to interact with the Processing program. I also spent some time working with Codebender to program the flora, which was freeing in some ways because I didn’t have to carry a thumb drive with my code everywhere. It worked!
For the actual wearable part, I reused an armband I had made for a dance piece last year. It’s basically a neoprene phone holder that was holds a wireless receiver headset unit (The Garden with Nichole Canuso Dance Company). Again, one of the things I discovered about wearables is the use of conductive thread. I had to redo the layout on the armband AND the battery pack due to conductivity or wiring failures and will probably have to redo it again as I continue to play with the data. The battery failed at the JST end of the pack, so I ended up splicing an extender in order to get it to work and I’m just not happy with the conductive thread. I have a yarn thread that I got from Sparkfun back in 2009. It tends to fray really fast as soon as you start sewing and then the strands break and you end up getting shorts really easily. Maybe I’ll just try knitting it into something or sewing on the machine with it rather than hand stitching. I’m trying the silicon wire and some newer thread from Adafruit on future projects.
After I had read a bit more about parsing the GPS data points, I started messing around with some serial inputs in Processing to get the Flora data to make a visual expression. Using the basic data read between the two programs from Casey Fry’s book Getting Started with Processing, I coded a floral ‘radar’ animation of the GPS data. Once the GPS had logged more data, the expression of the radar became more random, which was interesting. Because the radar expression of the data is quite mesmerizing as it animates, it ends up looking like an ever changing flower.
Anyway, I started to imagine how it would be to use this in a local array of wearables as textile designs for a ‘digital thumbprint’ or abstract of this idea of wearable place I’m working with. I am also considering how I could use an LED array (not unlike Cutecircuit’s LED skirts) or even a video game like expression of ‘wearable place’ that will interact with other pieces on actual clothing. I also wonder if there is a way to projection map this onto something else and have some LEDs that respond to data points echo or light up certain areas as the programs ‘talk’ to each other. Ultimately, I was satisfied with this August unit of my project as it brought together several of the things I’ve learned so far. It was also fun and terrifying to ‘present’ this at the Barnes Foundation as part of their First Free Sundays ‘Art & Technology’ forum.